‘Every Christmas’ puts the ‘ho’ in holidays

Gary Linehan, The Union Democrat

If you can't get enough of "A Christmas Carol," "It's a Wonderful Life," "The Nutcracker" and other holiday classics, Sierra Repertory Theatre has the holiday play for you.

"Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!)" offers an antidote to too many stagings of the Charles Dickens chestnut while still paying homage to it and the best qualities of the Christmas season.

It's a fast-paced, physically demanding comedy that requires three actors to perform a multitude of roles, not unlike today's workplace in general.

SRT's trio delivers the goods - and frequently even the greats.

The cast members are Ty Smith, J.D. Kellman and Tommy J. Dose, who bear the convenient stage names of Ty, Josh and Tommy.

When the lights go up, Ty steps into a beautiful 19th century set and begins to recite the opening of "A Christmas Carol" in earnest.

He doesn't get far, however.

Before you can say Scrooge was solitary as an oyster, he is interrupted by Josh and Tommy, who burst onto the stage to protest the umpteenth staging of "A Christmas Carol" and demand an alternate approach with the hopes of creating a new tradition.

Ty finds this somewhat disconcerting, especially when he points out that there is an audience watching and expecting the full Dickens treatment.

At this point the audience is drawn completely into the action as the cast roams through the theater asking people to shout out their favorite Christmas movies, stories and songs.

What follows has the air of improvisation, as many of the themes stated by the audience are translated into action on stage.

Tiny Tim, the Grinch, Frosty the Snowman, Snoopy, George Bailey and a multitude of other seasonal stalwarts come to life in a whirlwind of holiday zaniness.

When a certain red-nosed reindeer is mentioned, Josh points out that the copyright to his story remains tightly held and that this troupe's rendition must go forward as "Gustav the Green-Nosed Reingoat."

Another skit requires Ty to embody an elf, and the contorted, unworldly expressions he produces are priceless.

Ironically, some of the best moments also occur when Ty is trying to give straight readings from "A Christmas Carol," which brings the play to its penultimate conclusion, followed quickly by a musical number apparently encompassing every Christmas song ever recorded.

Sterling performances are given by all three actors, even as they don costumes and assume positions they may not have anticipated in acting class.

Ty Smith, with more than 70 roles to his credit at Sierra Rep, further cements his reputation by treading seamlessly between the fervent and the frivolous within the same play.

New York actors J.D. Kellman and Tommy J. Dose are making their SRT debuts, with Kellman at times appearing to channel Billy Crystal and Dose deftly handling the demands of the goofy, cuddly role.

Marc Liby directs, with choreography and stage management by Lia Metz, costume design by Megan Moore and set design by Jordan Egbertson.

Lighting design is by Christopher Van Tuyl, who is moving to New York at this end of this year to get married after 18 years at Sierra Rep. He will return as a guest designer, however, for the 2013 season opener, "Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story."

"Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!)," written by Michael Carleton, James FitzGerald and John K. Alvarez, with original music by Will Knapp, plays through Dec. 16 in East Sonora. For reservations, call 532-3120 or visit www.sierrarep.org.

11884469
The Union Democrat
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